Charlie Pierce at the Esquire Political Blog recalls another facet of Robert Bork’s career:
If we all live long enough, we may see the end of conservative whining over the hard hand dealt to Robert Bork, who once was denied a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States because his judicial philosophy should be written on a bearskin with a pointed stick dipped in mud. Joe Nocera is only the latest person to fall into the deep, rancid morass of self-pity that has emanated from Bork ever since a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate declined to let him spend the rest of his life playing Chutes and Ladders with the Bill of Rights….
On October 23, 1973, always the good apparatchik, it was Bork who stepped up and fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, after Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckleshaus refused to do so, on the orders of President Richard M. Nixon, who was at that moment guilty as sin of encouraging acts of burglary and retaliation against all his political enemies, real and imagined, and then covering them up. Call me an old fogie, but I remember the era of what a crooked AG named John Mitchell called “the White House horrors” as being a pretty toxic time for politics inside the old Beltway. And, when it counted, Robert Bork stepped up and did the bidding of a guilty old bag of sins who, if it weren’t for divisive politics, would have been selling lemons from a roadside stand in California.
Given how many of the Cheney Regency’s principal villians (Cheney himself, Baker, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc.) started their political careers under Richard Nixon, I’m more than ever convinced that the great American political error of the late twentieth century was letting Gerald Ford pass off the unwillingness of the bicameral “permanent government party” mandarins to examine the full extent of the Nixon administration’s criminality as “putting the past behind us“. Failure to prosecute “a frail old elder statesman” (who would go on spreading political poison for another twenty years) gave the various schemers, bagmen, thugs, and would-be kingmakers under his protection the chance to move from Watergate to Iran-Contra to the Supreme-Court-enabled theft of the 2000 election and all the yet-unpunished criminality resulting therefrom.
It’s as though the conspirators responsible for bringing all the McCarthy paranoia, Bircher race-baiting, and Goldwater fantasies of global domination into the Oval Office — only to be forestalled by their own clumsiness in attempting to hid the evidence of petty malfeasance — had been told: “While the Rule of Law holds in America, you will not be able to get away with this.” So they’ve spent the last 40 years in piecemeal destruction of that Rule of Law, the better to install their desired rule of very small men.
Since you were too kind to say it, let me: this may be the key long-term failing of the Obama administration, as well. And I say that as something of an O-bot.
Villago Delenda Est
The vile criminal Nixon should have done time. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.
Apart from the total idiocy of the WIN button, it is this that sticks out in my memory of the dumbfuck Ford assministration.
And I also agree that history will not look kindly on Obama’s reluctance to do something about the war criminal shit the deserting coward and the Dark Lord.
After WWII, we put Germans and Japanese to death for using the “advanced interrogation techniques” that those two have boasted of authorizing.
I heard on Thom Hartmann today that William Rehnquist early on in his career worked to suppress the vote in Hispanic and African American precincts … Hartmann said he was “rewarded” with his SCOTUS seat.
There is nothing more I can add to this that is either relevant or true. It really is amazing how much of this shit today may have been prevented by putting Nixon and the rest of his cronies in pound-me-in-the-ass prison where they belonged.
Refusal to prosecute Nixon and his reptilian specimens fully, with massive prison sentences for all of them, sent a huge neon signal with fireworks and kleig lights: IF YOU COMMIT HIGH CRIMES AND GROSSLY VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION, THERE ARE NO PENALTIES.
We have seen the results in Reagan’s Reign of Error (Iran-Contra, anyone? Remember how the EPA under Reagan had to be sued just to compel them to enforce the law?), the Drunk-Driving C-Student’s caligula-esque descent into barbarism, and now Barack Obama’s submergence into a cesspool of unconstitutional Star Chamber kangaroo courts and drone murders of innocent civiliations and assassination and kidnapping of American citizens without even charging them with a crime.
Nixon broke the constitution and got away with it. Ever since, presidents have realized that the constitution no longer exists, and that the only limits on a president’s power now are whether people find out the atrocities he commits while in office.
I have long said that anyone associated with the Nixon administration should be permanently barred from any form of public service. Think of how much less awful the Bush years could have been without that malignant influence.
Raven (formerly stuckinred)
@efgoldman: Only old fucks like us know this.
Pelosi should never have taken impeachment off the table. Now the Bush-era Republithugs are like political zombies, they’ll be back to wreck havoc again and again. In a sane world, a Bush Administration position on your resume should get you automatically disqualified from any job.
For MORE SCUM eminating from Nixon’s rotting body in HELL, how’s about MSNBC’s Favorite racist, and Proud of it:
Raven (formerly stuckinred)
@efgoldman: Hell yes.
Worth a look, if you had any doubts about just how bizarre HermanCainWorld/CrappyPizzastan really is.
efgoldman @6 and Raven @8:
This. As a fellow old fuck who was also there when it happened and who HATED Nixon from the get-go, this.
Raven (formerly stuckinred)
I have always remembered that all those fuckers went to the joint and, even though the heat knew very well who we were, my crew didn’t. (I have all the FOIA documents on the VVAW).
eta. I don’t think Nixon going or not going to the joint meant shit in the bigger scheme of things. Pigs is pigs.
The greatest political failure of the 20th Century democratic party is not managing to make the Republican Party into national pariahs for a generation following Watergate.
Uncle Clarence Thomas
You know who else looked forward, not backward…
Raven (formerly stuckinred)
@efgoldman: Mine were all Du Page County Republicans. They loved them some VVAW!
@Raven (formerly stuckinred):
Ah the good old days, rollin’ joints and watching Watergate. Brings a tear to these old eyes.
What a bunch of sleaze bags that crew was.
You have to wonder, if President Obama loses next year, who gets to act as regent to whichever unqualified bozo is the 45th President. I would hammer this “regency” bit into as many heads as possible between now and November next year.
I have a hard time imagining what a shitty justice Bork would have made. As much as I hate Roberts and his gang of assholes, Bork would have actually been worse.
@Raven (formerly stuckinred):
Interesting choice of words, as things really started to go to shit with the Bay of Pigs (witness the Nixon Tape where he made a cryptic reference to opening up that “Bay of Pigs thing”), an event that may have led to the assassination of Kennedy (I should be clear, I’m not saying Nixon had any role in THAT event), and, well, it’s been an interesting ride ever since.
yeah, what with a retarded electorate giving back the keys to the same old criminals within two years of an eight year disastrous shrub presidency and all, it’s all Obama’s fault.
americans deserve what they vote for … repeatedly.
one of obama’s greatest failings (among many) is his refusal to prosecute the bush-criminal regime thereby GUARANTEEING that the nation will again be lied into the abomination of illegal, u8nnecessary war.
the string of republican presidential criminality is unbroken since nixon. obama has guaranteed that the next republican POTUS will again engage in unfettered criminality.
Speaking of insane Cain: Holy shit did you see the video of him on Stossel. If you are leaving your fellow travelers jaw-dropped, astounded and speechless you are fucking toast in the general election.
How does he imagine he’s getting the nomination?
Uh-oh. NPR found more holes in Marco Rubio’s story about when his family emigrated from Cuba.
You would think that after handing Republicans the White House for 20 of the last 30 years, someone might have noticed that 3 stock market crashes, the S&L crisis, and the Subprime crisis all happened under Republican Presidents. You would think someone else might have noticed that the groundwork was laid for all of these disasters by enacting Republican economic policies.
Doopdidoo, looking for a clip…
Oh :-\ they showed some of it on Maher’s show, so I guess everyone has seen it by now. Man. Well anyway. He is just bonkers.
Uncle Clarence Thomas
Ha ha, good one. There’s a reason why they call it the Bush Crime Family. Did you know he’s the only person alive that never remembered where he was or what he was doing when JFK was assassinated? And that was just a November surprise.
@efgoldman: And yeah, I know that’s pretty obvious, but isn’t that supposed to be on the down low? Isn’t that how the grift works? Like with Newt, he knows he’s not going anywhere near the White House but he’s gonna give it the old college try to squeeze a few more cruises and book deals out before he kicks the bucket. Publicly, Newt still swears he’s in it to win it though!
It just seems like the crazy shit Cain is saying and doing doesn’t even reach that low, low bar. He’s at Santorum levels of crazy now, but the polling… the polling is insane too.
@efgoldman: Motherfucker ran the CIA.
Ding, ding, ding.
Let’s think back to 1980, when Reagan was choosing his VP candidate, the names that were floated was Ford followed by Bush. Of course, Ford pardoned Nixon after serving on the Warren Commission and…
Villago Delenda Est
He arranged so his bank robbing son Neil didn’t go to jail for Silverado Savings.
That entire family, from HW’s Nazi Dad on down, makes the Corelones look like creampuffs.
Btw, percentage of Swiss voters voting for the anti-immigrant party last Sunday: 27
Percentage of Conservative MPs voting for a referendum on the EU against the strict orders of David Cameron: 27
@Warren Terra: This has long been my prediction.
In fact, the National Lampoon Radio Hour did a sketch about that at the time: it was a parody radio drama with the tag line “Prison Farm. Where men are forced to live like kings.”
If there was any justice, those crooks would still be in jail for their role in destroying the rule of law.
@Villago Delenda Est:
At this point, I have to think that a real attempt to prosecute anybody from the previous administration would have precipitated a potential constitutional crisis of some sort by now as well as at least one assassination attempt or an attempted coup detat. When your enemies are convinced you are actually a traitor and a terrorist, then unthinkable outcomes become thinkable.
Not to mention, every Democratic admin would face prosecution by an incoming GOP admin for the next 60 years. The country would fall apart.
The thing I find most infuriating about Nocera’s post (as well as the repub’s looking to blame all of the past 15-20 yrs of partisan division on the Democrat’s treatment of Bork) is that Reagan (read: the people who ran the government for Reagan) knew exactly how toxic Bork’s nomination was.
The man fired Cox for cripes sake! Bork’s nomination is akin to nominating Strom Thurmond to head the DOJ’s Dept. of Civil Rights. They did it on purpose, knowing full well that the Democrats would be forced to decry Bork’s lunatic judicial philosophy (as all reasonable people should) in an effort to convince as many senators as possible to vote against the nomination. They figured it would be a win-win but were surprised by the ferocity of those who wouldn’t allow Bork within 10 miles of the SC (except perhaps as a criminal defendant seeking judgement on an appeal).
And even then, Bork was given an up or down vote on the floor of the senate (and thank gawd, he went down in a bipartisan wall of flames). And this, THIS, is the excuse for the 15-20 years of Republican intransigence?
I kind of agree, but if you want to talk about how the failure to punish political criminals has let their evil live on, I think Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and the rest of that crowd of traitors should have swung. At the very least, they shouldn’t have roads and schools named after them. What kind of message does that send?
@celtidragonchick: Like they’re not going to anyway?
One profound, but little-discussed historical “what if” is if Gerald Ford had managed to squeak out re-election vs Carter in 1976. Carter was in part the victim of the economic problems whose causes were planted before he came into office, but bloomed into stagflation during his term. The same economic mess would have come to fruition in the midst of a second Ford Administration, and it’s also highly likely the Iran Hostage crisis would have happened pretty much the way it did, when it did, under Ford as under Carter. Bottom line: the chickens would have come home to roost under Ford, and Ted Kennedy (or some other at least moderately progressive Democrat) would have coasted to election in a 1980 landslide, and the disastrously rightward slow-spiral downward in American politics since then would likely not have happened, or at least would have been much milder and more temperate.
Without the misfortunes of the Carter years, the GOP would have remained in the wilderness for a decade or two to come following Watergate. We forget that Ford (like Carter) was widely regarded by the public as a good, likable man, but a stumblebum as a President.
Heck, if Carter had just sent another half-dozen helicopters along on the “October surprise” Iran hostage rescue mission, his chances of winning in November 1980 would have been far brighter. Instead, the mission failure due to the lack of sufficient redundancy to carry out the mission when a sandstorm wrecked one helicopter reinforced the image of Carter as a losing bumbler rather than that of a reassuring man of action.
Oh, agreed, you let Nixon get away with it and it fucked up a lot of shit for future generations.
Reagan too, for that matter. And Bush. And Cheney.
It started before that, when Nixon sabotaged LBJ’s 1968 peace talks. Not conjecture, it’s true. Also treason, but none dare call it treason if doth be Conservative. It got worse from there, hoocouldaknowed?
Iran/Contra, a stolen election, a(nother, even dumber) war based on lies, politicizing the DoJ on a level unseen since Woodrow Wilson and perhaps beyond even that. Who knows, maybe the Top Secret energy policy meetings in 2001 were even more crooked. Thank Jeebus that Vice President Cheney was wise enough to make sure we’ll never find out.
Like all sentient beings I think HBO’s The Wire is the finest art I’ve seen this side of real good punk rock, or Chuck Berry or Peter Laughner, or Rap before it turned into Hip Hop(TM). Wondered why for a while, but a lot of it is that The Wire is a series of portraits of broken institutions, failing and corrupted and falling apart.(Not an original thought, see the excellent NYRB article. For free.)
The rot is deep. Terminal? I Can’t afford to think that, at least not yet. I am part of this weird, fucked up American experiment Likely, dear Balloon Juice reader you are too.
I see our political problems as more 1855 than 1955, more 1933 than 1776. Given that, what to do? Donate, sure, but I don’t make a lot of money. Locally (CT-3) Rosa, Blumenthal and (probably) Murphy should win easy. What should I do? I have vacation time to burn, also scared shitless by American politics.
What should we do? And on the heels of that, let us get busy doing it. I hate to play Cassandra, but then there’s reality out there staring us in the face.
terrific post AL
@Southern Beale: bingo, instead they walk the streets amongst us, the faces behind these think tanks that continue to perpetuate the line of bullshit that is fed to the Faux fans. I really wish that they had gone after those shits and perhaps that would have put these fuckers on the defensive instead of allowing them free rein to fuck up anything and everything our President attempted to implement.
all these guys did is manage to smear the patriotic good guy image that our Country garnered post WWII as folks that believed in individual rights, self determination and the notion of opportunity being available for all. I understand that they were afraid of the communists, they were afraid of people of color and they let those fears consume them into betraying damn near every single American ideal. I hate those fuckers because they oftentimes make me ashamed to be an American with the crap that they perpetrated in the name of our country.
The ad was so much fun to make that he needed a cigarette afterwards? And then Herman smirks. Oooo kaayyyyyy.
Roads and schools named after them is bad enough, but half of Jefferson Davis’ cabinet was later elected to Congress.
Short Bus Bully
Wow, what a great post Anne Laurie! Really fucking nailed it. I’ll be forwarding the linkie to all friends and family with the aol email accounts to try and spread the knowledge.
Always mildly surprised and disappointed to see a thread and comments about something like this and not a mention of its connection to The Family. The Pardon was highly facilitated by those assholes, among whom were Nixon SecDef Melvin Laird, and, of course, Chuck Colson. They greatly influenced Ford’s decision.
And re Southern Beale’s regret that Nancy took the impeach option off the table, goddamn but I can never think about her exchange with Russert when he asked her, was she going to take it off the table, without profound regret. Love Nancy for all the backbone she’s shown re ACA, SS, etc., but why the fuck oh why did she not draw herself up to her full height, look that asshole in the eye, and say, ‘you can argue over whether I would ever consider impeachment in the current circumstances, Tim, but why are you implying it’s the least bit proper that an incoming Speaker of the House abrogate his or her constitutionally-delegated power of impeachment as a check on the Executive branch? Tim, would I not be guilty of dereliction of duty if I did that?’
My GODDDDDDD, to watch his courtier-ass squirm as he tried to reply to that.
Paul in KY
@celtidragonchick: Probably true, but sure is a sad, sad thing to write.
This country is not what it was 40 years ago.
Joe N’s closing remark in his NYT piece.
This really is the philosophy that has governed how Republicans operate over nearly the last quarter century.
If Democrats hadn’t fucked with us on Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Bork, which was the straw that broke the Republican’s back, with regards to civility, they’d not have had to impeach President Clinton, agitated to get Rostankowski (sp?) or Wright or any other House Dems caught in scandals and obstruct everything President Obama has tried to do.
Greenwald just wrote an entire book about this topic.